Featuring music from the American West played on four instruments!

Unknown.jpegEmigrants Crossing the Plains (Albert Bierstadt), 1869

Our long journey thus began in sunshine and song

Peter H. Burnett,  May 22, 1843

For the past two years, I’ve been researching the history and music of the early American West for an ongoing research  project I call Heart and Place: Music of the Westward ExpansionThe history of the American West brims with inspiring stories, musical diversity, artistic creativity, and valuable life lessons relevant to our modern world.

Today I’m sharing four video clips featuring short narratives and music of the Westward Expansion -played on four instruments. I have played this music for concerts in Oregon, Washington, and Montana,  and even at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  I’m looking forward to working with this music and history for many years to come.

Take a look here for more information on the Northern Cheyenne Courtship Flute. 

 

VICTORIAN RADICALS

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Musica (Melody) by Kate Elizabeth Bunce

A “June Gloom” day in Seattle made for the perfect opportunity to visit the  VICTORIAN RADICALS exhibit at Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

The attention to detail in the array of colorful paintings, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, and pottery transported me into a romantic world of  gardens, gods, goddesses, secret liaisons, betrayals, and courtly love!  My hands down favorite painting was Musica, by Kate Elizabeth Bunce. The lovely young musician with her ornate lute, sumptuous dress, and  intricate jewelry,  posed in front of a blooming floral arrangement, swept me away.

At one point I was asked to kindly step back  from a display case (got to close).  The case held a book which was open to a poem entitled, Edward  Gray.  I was mesmerized by the beautiful poem written by an English poet, Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892).   I thought to myself, someone must have set this poem to music.  When I got home, I did a little digging online and found a piece of sheet music written by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900),  of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.  As it turns out, Edward Sullivan set Edward Gray to music.  Sullivan’s setting is operatic, covers multiple octaves, and is far too complicated for the purposes of laying down a quick track for my blog……..  so I modified the melody and accompanied myself on my Taylor guitar as I don’t have a  lute lying around the studio, I do however, have plenty of floral dresses.

Here’s my version of Edward Gray:

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Here are some more beautiful paintings from the exhibit!

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Sigismonda (or Gismonda), 1897 by Joseph Edward Southall

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I didn’t get the name of the artist for this one… the narrative of the painting is about a young man who died in battle, the women are handing over some of his  personal belongings to his broken-hearted lover!

 

Couldn’t we all use more flowers, more color, more art, more music, more beauty, more love?

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Cafe Flora, Seattle

 

Buffy Sainte-Marie, Love Lift Us Up!

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Last weekend, Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition featured an interview with award-winning Canadian singer, songwriter, artist, and social activist, Buffy Sainte-Marie. What a delightful and insightful interview!

This is the first time I’ve heard of Buffy Sainte-Marie. Where have I been? I instantly fell under her spell as she talked about her recently released biography, her life in music, and her personal journey. As the interview rolled on, her radiant spirit, humor, and message of hope came through loud and clear.  Thanks, Scott Simon!

She co-wrote the 1982 song, “Up Where We Belong”  from the film, An Officer and a Gentlemen. For this song, she  received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, making her the first native person to ever win that award.

Check out Buffy’s interview with Scott Simon: 

https://www.npr.org/2018/09/29/652791230/buffy-sainte-maries-authorized-biography-serves-as-a-map-of-hope

Don’t miss this soulful video of  Buffy’s You Got to Run ( Spirit Of The Wind )

 

Up Where We Belong, I recorded this in my studio yesterday, inspired by Buffy’s interview! It’s such a beautiful song, an old favorite.

 

Who knows what tomorrow brings

In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow…………………………………..

 

The original recording  by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes:

 

Indeed,

Love Lift Us Up! 

Piano Arts in Netarts

 

I recently returned from Netarts on the Oregon Coast for Piano Arts in Netarts, Where Music Meets the Sea,  a workshop orchestrated by Dr. Jill Timmons, of Arts Mentor.

I joined about forty other pianists from Oregon, Washington, and California for a weekend of continuing education, beautiful music, friendship, renewal, and stunning scenery.

All  events took place in the fire hall of Netarts, a lovely community style meeting space. We enjoyed  a concert size Bösendorfer and a concert size Yamaha for the concerts and classes, courtesy of Classic Pianos of Portland.

The weekend kicked off with a Friday evening viola/piano concert in the fire hall featuring Jill Timmons and Laura Klugherz .  This fabulous duo played works from the likes of Bréval, Grignon, Ponce, Schubert, Bernstein, and Gershwin, to name a few.  Community members and workshops participants filled the concert space.

The following day began gently with body work, specifically, Feldenkrais, led by Laura Klugherz.  We then jumped into a full schedule of master classes.  The classes highlighted  nine different performers including soloists, a four hand duo (at one piano)  and two duos playing two pianos.

For those  scratching their head about the meaning of a master class, here’s a short explanation. A master class includes a small group of performers,  in our case, all professional musicians and a master teacher.   Each performer plays a prepared  work, and then, the master teacher digs into work and the performance. She addresses  body position, articulations, tempo, pedaling,  dynamics, expression,  phrasing, music history, performance anxiety, and everything in between! It’s like a lesson, but the lesson unfolds in front of forty people.

As a master class performer, I can tell you, the experience is exhilarating, humbling, educational, scary, and a joyful, all at the same time. For our series of  master classes, the repertoire ranged from the  Baroque period  to a work from the late 20th Century.  Each performer and duo managed to add unique pieces and pianistic challenges to the mix.  The repertoire included works from Hilary Tann, Albénez, Chopin, Charles Wakefield Cadman (my contribution), Debussy, and Lutoslawaski.

The following day started  with body work, this time, a yoga class led again by Laura.  The morning workshop addressed practicing effectively,  the afternoon presentation taught us about the inner workings of the piano. We wrapped up the weekend with a community concert presented by  the master class performers.

Of course, in between sessions, we socialized, shared some fantastic meals, visited some local watering holes, and walked around the charming town of Netarts.

Upon reflecting on the weekend and my dedication to continuing education until my very last day on this beautiful earth, I think of the following  quote by Seymour Bernstein.  “Music speaks concordantly to a troubled world, dispelling loneliness and discontent, it’s voice discovering in it those deep recesses of thought and feeling where truth implants itself.  Music offers no quarter for compromise, no excuses, no subterfuge, no shoddy workmanship.”

 Dr. Jill Timmons, director of the festival,  my mentor and friend,  teaches us to practice with full availability of self and also teaches us to give up the idea of perfection in performing. Performing, after all,  is a temporal experience.  She reminds us,  “Perfection only exists in our imagination. We are perfectly imperfect!” 

 

 

 

Another Bride, Another June

It’s June, the garden looks fabulous, and exciting music projects are in the works.  Just a quick note to let you know I’ve revamped my wedding and special event offerings page.  I’m available, that is, musically speaking!  Check out my new page here! 

Laura playing Sunday Kind of Love by Louis Prima: 

I want a Sunday kind of love
A love to last past Saturday night
 I’d like to know it’s more than love at first sight
 I want a Sunday kind of love

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Rancho La Puerta 2018

IMG_4642I just returned from a week at the health and fitness spa, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  This was my eighth visit to the Ranch as a  visiting musical artist. The motto of the Ranch is ¡Siempre Mejor! (always better).  My first visit was life changing, and each visit provides inspiration to lead my best and healthiest life possible!  Here are my top 10 experiences from the magical week, in no particular order.

  • Wandering around the brick paths that snake through the entire property while taking in the colorful gardens! 

  • Attending  two concerts from Grammy Award winning classical guitarist, Jason Vieaux! I will never forget his magical playing and commentary in the  intimate setting of the Oak Tree Pavilion.  Here’s a pic of Jason below.

Jason Vieaux

  •  Hanging  out with my handsome husband who worked at the Ranch for thirty-one years before retiring to live in Seattle. I literally took the Ranch home over six  years ago, when Joe came to live with me and my daughter, Ruby.  Now he visits the Ranch  as my guest and gets to relax and do whatever he wants!

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  •  Seeing old friends and making new ones! Below, the lovely Manuela, Concierge Extraordinaire!

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  •  A wonderful hands on cooking class with master vegan chef and cookbook author, Jill Nussinow, the Veggie Queen!  Joe, Ruby, and I  been following a plant based diet for over two years now, never felt better.

 

 

  •  Performing an evening solo piano  program, Across the Borders,  in the Oak Tree Pavilion! I also led two sing along classes in the same space, terrific fun.

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  •  Swimming Workouts in the beautiful fitness pool. IMG_0833
  •  Yoga!

 

  •  Watching a barn owl swoop into a tree at sunset like a  winged white ghost from another world.  Joe and I experienced this together.  We also saw a family of 7 skunks the same night- luckily, they kept the family party moving!  click here for some magnificent bird photos

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  • Returning Home.  Good to go away and oh so happy to return home to the yellow house.  There’s no place like home.

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Merry Christmas from snowy Seattle

Snow is starting to fall.  Looks like we’ll be having a white Christmas in Seattle! Here’s to  peace, love, music, health, and joy today, and every day. Here’s my daughter, Ruby, and I  playing Christmas Cookies (Dec. 17, 2017 at Music Center of the Northwest), originally  recorded by George Strait, written by Aaron Barker. Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Strait To Vegas

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Rodeo queens, show girls, casinos, hustlers, Texas hold ’em, slots, swanky shops, and mile after mile of neon lights, oh my! Last weekend, Joe and I took a trip to Las Vegas, my first time. Why Vegas? Two words: George Strait.

I’ve been listening to and singing George Strait songs for over thirty years. I love his soothing voice, the beautiful songs, his personality, and his old- school country sound. What’s better than George singing more than thirty of his greatest hits, accompanied  by the Ace in the Hole Band?  Amarillo By Mornin’, Check Yes or No, The Chair, Easy Come Easy Go, are some of my favorites. I also enjoyed the two songs tribute to Merle Haggard, including, Are the Good Times Really Over, now that’s some old-time country!

I can’t stop thinking about the show,  what a delight to experience a stage full of  seasoned musicians who effortlessly and elegantly tossed off hit after hit. I think musicians of all genres would find inspiration in watching these professionals at work. Some of those guys were in their late 70’s if not 80’s.  Definitely not their first rodeo.

While in the big AT&T  Stadium, the concert had excellent sound with amazing views  of George and the band no matter where he was standing on the square-shaped stage, thanks to the Jumbotron.  For the encore, the George and the band played a perennial favorite… All My Ex’s Live in Texas, the Milk Cow Blues, and an old-time swing number, Take Me Back to Tulsa. Here’s George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

We also took in Cirque du Soleil’s One, featuring the music of Michael Jackson.  A stunning show with death-defying acrobatics, creative staging, brilliant costumes, amazing performers,  and dazzling lighting.  Standouts of the show  include, Billy Jean danced in the dark, the dancers (and flying acrobats),  outlined by a tiny lights,  the sexy, Dirty Diana, danced by an athletic, and incredibly flexible woman, the fierce female bass player playing all those memorable riffs such as  Beat it and Smooth Criminal,  and a hologram of the King of Pop himself, dancing the grand finale of the show.  Absolutely mesmerizing. Here’s the trailer for the show.

Below are some shots of the strip and check out George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

My version of Amarillo By Mornin’:

 

 

 

 

 

Heart and Place at the C.M. Russell Museum,Great Falls, MT

 

 

Fourteen performances in four days in six different venues!  (Sounds like a country song)  I’ve just returned to Seattle after presenting my program, Heart and Place, Music of the Westward Expansion, in Great Falls, MT last week. The week involved hauling around a guitar, fiddle, Cheyenne Courting Flute, and sometimes a full size keyboard, and amp along with samples of C.M. Russell artwork.

The C.M. Russell Museum sponsored the residency which included programs in middle and high schools, as well as an evening performance in the museum.

The highlight was playing a concert in the intimate setting of the museum for around eighty people on a beautiful Yamaha grand. There was something magical about playing 19th Century music surrounded by Russell’s artwork and artifacts from the same era.  Many people in the audience were from my hometown of Choteau. Choteau is 50 miles down the road from Great Falls. Thanks to all who made the journey down the road!

I can’t say enough about the dedicated arts professionals in Great Falls including the music and art teachers in the classrooms, along with the Music and Art Supervisor for Great Falls Schools, Dusty Molyneaux and Eileen Laskowski, Education and Programs Manager for the C.M. Russell Museum.

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I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

-John Steinbeck

 

Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute

 

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Cheyenne Courting Flute made by JD Old Mouse  now part of my instrument collection.

 

My first recording on the Northern Cheyenne Courting  Flute…. The flute is not tuned to a traditional diatonic scale, the sound is more improvisational, however, I have found that I can play some folk songs.  Here is a sample of  me playing Wayfaring Stranger on my beautiful flute. 

In traditional Northern Cheyenne culture, when the time came for a young man to find a mate, he would enlist the help of the tribal flute maker.  The  flute, made of cedar wood,  showcases a bull elk, along with sun and moon carvings.  This design honors the elk for shelter, food, and clothing, and the sun and the moon for the blessings of the day and the night. Upon receiving his flute,  the young man would go off to a quiet area and play a love song,  hoping to attract the attention of his intended mate.

Although not used for courting anymore, the tradition of flute making and playing continues through the work of JD Old Mouse, a Northern Cheyenne Indian who lives in Busby, MT.  Busby is about a 1.5  drive from Billings, MT  on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, near the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  This was a pilgrimage from Seattle to Eastern Montana (my native state) to learn about an aspect of Native American music from a primary source. This is part of a larger music project I’m creating called  Heart and Place: Exploring  Westward Expansion through music and stories.  

JD traces his flute lineage back three  generations starting with Turkey Legs who lived near Fort Keough (Miles City, Montana)  in the late 1800’s. After Turkey Legs, the tradition was passed to Grover Wolf Voice, then to Douglas Glenmore, also known as Blackbear.

 

Turkey Legs, late 1800's, Miles City, MT

Turkey Legs circa 1890, Montana

 

 

 

Grover

Grover Wolf Voice

 

 

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Jay Old Mouse with his grandfather, Douglas Glenmore

 

 

 

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Jay Old Mouse teaching me how to play

 

JD learned the craft of building the flute from his grandfather, Douglas Glenmore. Not only did JD learn the building of the flute, but he’s also a master at  playing. He plays for weddings, funerals, schools and other special occasions.  Whenever a flute player is requested, JD answers the call,  this is part of the flute maker’s responsibility and legacy.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending  a morning with Jay and his wife, Amy,  at their home outside of Busby to learn about the Northern Cheyenne Flute, an experience I’ll never forget. Jay showed me photographs of early flute builders and samples of their flutes, he also played the flute and gave me a lesson on  playing this gorgeous instrument.  I felt honored to get a peek into this culturally rich world.  I purchased one of his wonderful  flutes, which I brought home to Seattle.

Traditionally,  the flute is played  only by men, but JD has given his blessing for me to play and talk about the flute. He has built flutes for other women who are interested in the flute for  healing , or for educational  purposes.

For a video of Jay talking about and playing the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute visit, please visit  here.

Jay is a warm-hearted, funny,  wise, and and soulful. Talking with him feels like a visit with those three great generations of Northern Cheyenne Flute makers who came before him.

 

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“Old Skool” Jay’s workshop, a converted school bus

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Me and Jay after  lunch near the Little Big Horn Battlefield.